Gurlitt Art Trove Taskforce To Miss Restitution Deadline

The Bavarian culture ministry has announced in a statement that the taskforce charged with discovering the rightful heirs to the collection of Nazi looted art kept by the late art hoarder Cornelius Gurlitt will miss its self-imposed deadline, reports Art Magazine.

After months of dithering and following international condemnation during the Gurlitt case, the German cabinet had announced plans to create a body to search for works stolen during the Nazi era. The idea would incorporate Berlin’s Bureau for Provenance Research into the German Lost-Art Foundation, basing the operation in the latter’s headquarters in the eastern city of Magdeburg, and increasing its budget by about 5 million euros or 3.9 million pounds. The taskforce had hoped to conclude their research into the works’ provenance by the end of this year.

The ministry told parliamentarians responding to an official inquiry by the Bavarian Green Party, that “As it stands the research will continue into the year 2015.” according to Art magazine. The ministry later revealed that by the end of the year they will at least have compiled a list of works which are definitely not Nazi looted artworks to be investigated.

But Bavarian Green party member Sepp Dürr criticised the delay saying “Proven claims have not been processed, heirdom inquiries are being left unanswered, excuses of thoroughness are being used as a pretext to disguise half-hearted research work.” reported in Art Magazine.

The collection has been known colloquially as the “Munich Art Trove,”. It was collated by Cornelius Gurlitt’s father, Hildebrand Gurlitt. Gurlitt senior was one of four art dealers entrusted with selling so-called degenerate art during the Nazi regime’s rule. Originally estimated at the value of nearly £700 million – the value has dropped significantly since – as many pieces have now been identified as looted works from Jewish families by the Nazis.

According to an individual who had been taking care of Gurlitt; only eight paintings were under suspicion of being Nazi looted artworks as of this past May – this was stated shortly after 1280 from the collection were taken from Gurlitt’s Munich apartment by tax authorities in February 2012 on suspicion that the octogenarian art collector had evaded taxes. However, the taskforce has refused to confirm the Gurlitt caregiver’s comments and maintains that at least 458 works are still suspected of having Nazi ties and will therefore remain under investigation.

Upon his death, Gurlitt bequeathed the entire collection of works to Switzerland’s Kunstmuseum Bern. But recently Jewish World Congress president Ronald Lauder has publicly threatened the Kunstmuseum Bern with an “avalanche” of lawsuits if the institution accepts the collection of artworks bequeathed to it by the late Gurlitt – stated in an article published by German weekly Der Spiegel.

However ahead of his death, the Gurlitt did indicate that he supported the return of any art proven to be Nazi loot to their rightful heirs. Now representatives of Switzerland’s Kunstmuseum Bern have maintained that the decision whether or not to accept the ‘Muncih Art Trove’ amidst all the controvery, will not be made until a meeting of the museum’s board on November 26th.


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